Favorite

God, Jason Rapert and Obamacare 

When someone lamented the starvation of millions in the Ukraine, Joseph Stalin is supposed to have observed that "one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is only a statistic."

Even if you're talking about the legislature, there should be a better social psychologist than the butcher of Moscow, but Stalin's point is an apt one. We may find one person's hardships compelling, but our compassion tends to dissolve in the face of an abstraction like "50 million."

I mention Stalin's remark in the service of a story: How Arkansas legislators implemented the central feature of Obamacare, the health-insurance law that most of them had sworn to destroy.

The legislature's huge vote — 28-7 in the Senate and 77-19 in the House — to provide government-paid health insurance for 250,000 low-income working adults and implement a law that people in Arkansas are supposed to loathe is the most shocking turnaround in modern Arkansas history. Gov. Dale Bumpers corralled three-fourths of both legislative houses in 1971 for the only increase in the personal income tax in history (unless you count Mike Huckabee's temporary surtax in 2003), but all except four of the 135 lawmakers belonged to Bumpers's party.

Here we have Republicans controlling both houses of the legislature and most of them are there at least partly because they denounced Obamacare and vowed to use any chance to stop it.

Except for a few ideas for slowing medical inflation, the Affordable Care Act has a single purpose, to provide insurance to the 50 million Americans — 504,2000 of them in Arkansas — who don't have it, principally because they can't afford it or they are denied it by insurance companies.

The Republican case was that it was more Big Government, and it seemed that at least half the country was with them. That 50 million and Arkansas's 504,2000 might be down and out but they were part of Mitt Romney's famous 47 percent who were takers, slackers and whiners.

Across the South and Midwest, where Republicans were in control, they took advantage of the one opening the U.S. Supreme Court gave them for disrupting Obamacare. That was to deny health insurance to a large group of Americans who were eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and disabled. Only the Arkansas legislature didn't oblige, although one or two other Republican legislatures may follow. Forty-two of the 72 Republican lawmakers and all the Democrats voted for it.

Governor Beebe gets credit for his deft hand, patience and occasional sellout on outrageous Republican bills, and credit must go also to community hospitals, doctors and business groups that pleaded that the state not reject a big economic stimulus.

But there was another element, and this is where the teaser about Joe Stalin comes in. The governor's office, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Community Institute found faces to humanize those big impersonal numbers. They were pivotal in reaching the three-fourths threshold in both houses.

Faye Graham of North Little Rock was one of them. Graham, 54, is the only person in three generations of her cancer-prone family to have survived it, and she is still battling. A teacher and educational consultant who reared four children and saw them through Yale and Wellesley, she has at times been homeless and dependent on her children and friends. She can't get a full-time job but she earns about $16,000 a year teaching a class at Pulaski Technical College and tutoring adult illiterates and ACT test takers. She lost the insurance that paid for her treatment and scans and all that is available is the temporary Obamacare plan for people with pre-existing conditions. The premiums would be $15,000 a year and it would cover only 80 percent of costs if she could afford it.

Graham spoke at a Capitol rally and legislative hearings, and several Republican legislators found Graham and her story compelling. Gracious, articulate and witty, she didn't fit the taker and whiner model. She grew up in a Republican family and described most of her life as very comfortable, although misfortune and homelessness have made her a liberal Democrat.

One who took an interest was Sen. Jason Rapert, the conservative firebrand whose attacks on Obamacare and the Muslim-loving president made national news. Rapert called the Cancer Society and other groups he thought would help her. But when she described her circumstances they said she didn't qualify. She asked them to call Rapert and say they couldn't help.

Rapert had not voted for the Medicaid implementation but he promised to vote for the critical appropriation bill and also to round up the last votes needed from hard-line Republicans.

Graham's own representative, Jane English, would not talk to her and voted with a clear conscience against the bill that would give her succor.

But she praises several Republicans for their charity and compassion, mainly Rapert, with whom she disagrees on just about everything but for whom she will offer unrestrained encomiums.

"He is not the monster they make him out to be," Graham said. "I truly think God put Jason Rapert there to get this done."

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Trusting

    It is a Fourth of July ritual to appraise where we are in meeting the Declaration of Independence's promise to institute a government that would, unlike King George, secure human rights equally for everyone who sets foot on American soil.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Obamascare

    Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Ethics upended

    Every week, Donald Trump finds another way to upend conventional ethics in government and politics. Here's one that has been in the making since the campaign but is reaching maturity in the Russian investigation: He is turning the heroes of government scandals into the villains.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • The ACA can be fixed

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened his 51 disciples in the Senate and his party with the gravest injury imaginable.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Trusting

    It is a Fourth of July ritual to appraise where we are in meeting the Declaration of Independence's promise to institute a government that would, unlike King George, secure human rights equally for everyone who sets foot on American soil.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Obamascare

    Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • And I quote: "Sounds like maybe some of those descriptors hit a little close to…

    • on July 21, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Hey Bishop, when did God say "Grab them by the pussy?"

    • on July 21, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Well said. I believe that male mentors are another key way to connect our local…

    • on July 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation